By February, Jackson County leaders hope to take another step forward in the aerospace industry. To do that, Northrop Grumman will have to win a $3 billion contract to build the Global Hawk Unmanned Aircraft for the U.S. Navy. Northrop is already building Global Hawks for the Air Force.
"The Global Hawk is being used in the War on Terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, and extensively in the domestic home front," Economic Development Foundation Director George Freeland said.
Northrop Grumman's Thomas Twomey explained the unmanned aircraft and all its capabilities to business leaders Thursday.
"Persistent maritime surveillance capability," Twomey said. "The Block 20 is going to eventually replace the U2 in the Air Force. At 60,000 feet it flies for 36 hours. If you want to go lower, it can fly 42 at 45 hours," Twomey said.
If the Navy gives the go-ahead, Northrop Grumman will produce more than 35 Global Hawks. The aircraft work will be done at various sites across the nation. The Moss Point facility would build the fuselages. According to Twomey, that means the current 64 employee roster could double or even triple.
"It will increase production, it will increase jobs, and residual jobs in the Jackson County area."
More jobs and more investments are just the words Economic Director George Freeland wants to hear.
"We are hopeful we'll win, and we will take another significant and incremental step in enhancing the aerospace footprint in Jackson County," Freeland said.
Freeland says there are several initiatives underway to improve the Trent Lott International Airport to help support the new aviation and aerospace development, including lengthening and widening the runway.
Lockheed Martin and Boeing Aircraft Company are also competing to win the Navy contract. A decision from the Navy is due in February.